Just a few weeks ago S. 978, commonly called the Ten Strikes Bill, was introduced in the Senate. A recent sampling of blogs across the internet shows that what appears to be a simple bill to change existing copyright laws to adapt to new technology has created quite a buzz.
Supporters of the Ten Strikes Bill say it is needed to adjust laws to adapt to the internet. YouTube users across the internet are outraged and scared that the bill will mean jail time.
In 1998 the copyright laws went through a major overhaul with the adoption of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA took the existing copyright laws and adjusted them, as best they could, to be relevant in the digital world.
The place in cyberspace where software and movie DVDs now live is “the cloud” not on your local computer or in a box of DVDs sitting on your desk.
The DMCA deals with making copies of software and movie DVDs. The DMCA does not clearly address streaming video coming from the cloud.
What is the need for Ten Strikes Bill S. 978?
To understand the catalyst for the Ten Strikes Bill simply look at the demise of DVD rental business. If you wanted to see the latest movies you walked to the corner DVD rental store and took home the DVD. The pirates of the day were the ones making illegal copies of the DVD to sell at a reduced cost, or to share with their friends for free.
Today you go to the cloud to watch the latest movie through your internet connection. The pirates of today are making copies of the movie to put on their server for you to watch for a reduced cost, or perhaps for free.
The example of the movie video illustrates that the crime is the same, it is just the technology has changed. Current laws focus on copying and distributing copyrighted works, not streaming.
What happens if Ten Strikes Bill S. 978 passes?
Currently the bill is still passing through the US Senate, and many bills are changed many times in the process of becoming a law. We still need to see the exact language of the laws that come out of the bill.
Once S. 978 becomes law it will be subject to interpretation. Copyright laws are complex. Hopefully some of the issues mentioned here can be addressed in the final outcome. The court system is filled with cases of lawyers and judges putting interpreting existing laws.
There is a wave of concern on the internet by YouTube users that passage of the bill will mean folks will be arrested for a whole host of illegal videos. Some are even suggesting that a video of a karaoke performance of a copyrighted song will get you jail time. In existing copyright laws there are many ways that copyrighted works can be used that do not violate the law, such as the concept of fair use. Perhaps there will be expanded definitions of the fair use provisions to allow for things like a karaoke performance.
If you are worried that the ten strikes bill becoming a law will result in all your YouTube friends doing time at a federal gray bar hotel, put that fear into perspective. How many CDs or DVDs are currently floating around the world containing copies of music, movies, and software, that are not currently being used by the original owner? What would be the cost of arresting people for every illegally copied CD or DVD?
YouTube is a Google property. Google is one of the most powerful technology companies on the planet. Perhaps Google will see the changes in the law as a way of them not being the bad guy for pulling down millions of videos that they have let slide though over the years.
The Ten Strikes Bill S. 978 is another example of law makers, as well as average citizens, trying to sort through and understand how the rules and regulations of the physical world will work in cyberspace.
While there has been much internet buzz on Ten Strikes Bill, a somewhat more complex, but potentially more intrusive Protect IP bill seems to be getting lost in cyberspace.
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